Sports In Paradise By Dale Jones
Coach Jones called little Johnny in from center field during a Little League game for a quick talk.
“Listen Johnny,” said the coach, “you know the principles of good sportsmanship that the Little League practices. You also know we don’t tolerate temper tantrums, shouting at the umpire, or abusive language. And also, there is no booing or heckling the other team. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Johnny.
“Well, then,” sighed Coach Jones, “would you please run up in the stands and try to explain it to your mother?”
Sad story but so true.
It happens this time of year all across the country. Young boys and girls who want nothing more than to go out and enjoy the beautiful weather and have fun playing America’s game are interrupted by some immature parents (and sometimes grandparents) who prove to do more harm than good.
Year after year after year we hear about “an incident” at a local baseball field where a grown up has taken things too far all because little Johnny didn’t get to play enough or because a college kid trying to earn a few extra dollars as an umpire made a bad call.
During a game back in 2006, 40-year-old Wayne Derkotch went up to his son’s coach during a game and complained that his boy wasn’t getting enough playing time. One thing led to another and before it was over, Derkotch pulled out a pistol and threatened the coach. The kids who were playing were five and six years old. Yes, you read that correctly. FIVE and SIX years old!
Although this one doesn’t involve a game of little leaguers, one of my favorite stories is about Brownie troop mother Lois Collinson who, in June of 2002, jumped a fence and approached an umpire about a call during a minor league game. The confrontation took place in the seventh inning of a match-up between New Jersey and Staten Island after New Jersey Cardinals’ player Justin Hieman was thrown out on an infield grounder. Park security officers responded and told Collinson to exit the field, but she refused and was handcuffed.
Just a couple of years ago there was a riot in a Nashville suburb over a supposed bad call by an umpire during a championship baseball game.
At least 20 parents and “fans” were literally up against the fence yelling and screaming at the umpire. Parents were threatening to shoot other parents. Park officials called 911. And the kids, the SEVEN and EIGHT year old kids who were “playing the game” were reportedly out on the field …crying.
I have been fighting this battle for years. I am as competitive as the next guy and who doesn’t want their kids to be on a winning team?
But you know what? Despite what our society has led us to believe, everybody is not going to win. Every kid is not going to make All-stars, and if you ask me, having All-stars for any kid under 14-years-old, whose body hasn’t even fully developed yet, is insane.
There are just as many lessons to be taught when our kids lose as when they win. But it is going to be difficult to teach a child anything about sportsmanship if he just watched you stand by the fence and call the umpire every name in the book.
I’ve often wondered how many future stars of Major League Baseball are now in retail, or teaching school, or in some other field of work because at a young age, they were exposed to a very bad experience on behalf of a parent or a coach.
As a little leaguer myself, I remember Mr. Alexander. What an embarrassment that man was to those of us who played for Glen Oaks. Rarely did a game go by that he wasn’t on the field, ranting and raving about the call a 21-year-old umpire had just made on an 8-year-old pitcher.
Come on people. Let’s be adults here. Most of these kids just want to play. They want to throw, catch and run the bases. Truth be told, most of these little guys and girls are more interested in getting their free coke after the game then they are about what the final score will be.
Here in Baldwin County, we have some of the finest facilities anywhere. Let’s don’t taint those with a bad attitude or by acting like a fool.
The sportsmanship your kids will learn most will come in the form of them watching you. Remember that.
-Hit ‘em straight
—Dale Jones covers sports and news in Baldwin County.